Sunday, March 1, 2009

Meat and Potatoes... Er... Rice

If there's one thing I generally don't touch in the kitchen, its steak. Not because I don't like it or don't know how to cook it, but because my husband has perfected steak. After drooling over our steaks at Ruth's Chris and Maestro's, Andy took it upon himself to recreate these mouth-watering, sweet buttery steaks at home. Without a 1500 degree oven, however, the task requires some improv.

We get our steaks, specifically - fillets, from Cetak's Meats and Sausages at 70th & Pioneers in Lincoln. He pulls them out of the refrigerator about an hour before he's ready to start cooking. Doing this is so important as it gets the chill off the meat and is less of a shock when the fillets hit the heat. While the steaks come to room temperature, Andy blots the steak dry with a paper towel to remove all excess moisture. He wants a good sear on the steak. He then brushes them with good olive oil and seasons the them with sea salt and pepper. We've prepared fillets a number of ways. When its too cold to grill we go for the cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets can get incredibly hot and distribute the heat evenly throughout the pan. They are not expensive and every cook should hopefully have at least one!

Sometimes he sears them in the pan on the stove before putting them in a 450 degree oven while they finish cooking to the desired temperature. Other times, he cooks them in the oven in the cast iron pan on high broil and later reduces the heat to finish cooking the steak.

Tonight, he puts the cast iron pan in the oven and preheats the oven and the pan to high broil for at least 30 minutes. Immediately, I remember that I should have cleaned the oven yesterday and I open some windows! BRRR! But it definitely beats the fire department showing up!

He broils the meat for 3 1/2 minutes on each side. Before turning the oven to 450 degrees, he inserts the meat thermomter probe.

One of my favorite gadgets is a digital meat thermometer whose console sits on the counter while the oven proof probe is continually measureing the temperature. It makes it so easy to know when to pull the steak out of the oven! Perfect steak every time. Or poultry. Or Pork.
All-Clad Oven-Probe Thermometer

Andy pulls my steak out when the internal temperature reaches 128 degrees and pulls his out when it reaches 133 degrees. He immediately tops it with butter, tents with foil and lets the butter melt on top while the steak rests, at least 10 minutes.

When the Steak Master is in my kitchen, I'm in charge of the sides. Tonight, I chose a brown rice pilaf and roasted asparagus. Brown rice is so good for you but can be tricky when it comes to developing its nutty flavor without drying out the rice. In my last issue of Cooks Illustrated, they suggested cooking it in the oven in a large dutch oven. Here's what I did:

Brown Rice Pilaf with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Parmesan, Peas and Almonds

4 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth (reduced sodium)
Large pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup frozen peas
5 oz. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat dutch oven on stove over medium high heat. Meanwhile, chop bacon into small pieces. Add to dutch oven and render until bacon is starting to crisp. Remove bacon from dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Remove all but 4 teaspoons bacon fat from pan.

Add shallots to pan and cook 8-10 minutes or until shallots start to brown. Stir in water, broth, and salt, scraping up all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cover. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in rice. Cover. And put in preheated oven. Bake about an hour.

Remove from oven. Stir in reserved bacon, peas, Parmesan, and toasted almonds. Cover. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve!
For a bit of green on our plate, we go with asparagus. Its loaded with Vitamins K, A and C as well as folic acid. Andy doesn't care about that. He just loves the taste. After snapping off the tough ends of the spears, I lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle the green goodies with some good olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, and freshly cracked pepper. (I save the ends for cream of asparagus soup!) In the oven they go at 425 for 15 -20 minutes, or until the heads start to turn slightly crispy. Mmmm!

Let me know what you think!


  1. I would definitely recommend this rice. This was right up there with the best rice I've ever had and something that went very well with the fillet.

  2. Thanks honey! You're sweet. Glad you like it!

  3. Ha ha, is it the same quality as the minute rice that you 'nailed' that time, Andy? Jon loves to tell that story.... :)